Starting from scratch

Aug 24 2012 07:00

AT MY fourth birthday party I received a very special gift - a gleaming set of working pots and pans, measuring spoons and cups and even a little liquidiser.

I knew right there and then, in a blinding flash of light – a kitchen epiphany – exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a magician, an artist, an entertainer - only, with food.

From that point on I immersed myself in the world of food and started taking action to make my dream come true.

Almost 20 years ago my dream became a reality when I opened a small one-man catering company in my friend's kitchen, and called it By Word of Mouth.

It was not easy in the beginning trying to juggle everything single-handedly.

On one occasion I remember personally doing four catering deliveries in my little red Citi Golf to a function of 350 people, cheffing the job, doing another four deliveries to get the dirty dishes back home and then washing the dishes through the night.

I then put on a power suit to go to a meeting in Pretoria in the morning, only to get back into my chef's kit and start prepping for the next function.

We have come a long way over the years. Owing to all-consuming passion, hard work, commitment, youthful energy and relentless hunger for success, By Word of Mouth has expanded rapidly, and now employs over 120 people.

We have opened various operating divisions including function catering, design, decor and event rental, staffing, beverage, sports catering, floral dDesign and a contract catering division. All these divisions are housed under one roof in Linbro Park, Johannesburg.

While I'm kept busy mainly focusing on food and function design, I am very lucky that my colleague, partner, and husband Adrian, with his enormous business acumen and management know-how, runs the business side of the company.

This includes logistics, administration, the supply chain, processes, planning and project management.

People are the life force of any company. Feeling confident and secure in the knowledge that we have a dynamic, talented team who enthuse energy, passion and pride, and consistently deliver exceptional value to our clients, gives me and Adrian the energy and creativity to constantly think about and pursue new business avenues.

I am inspired every day by other chefs, foodies and bloggers. I try to employ better chefs than myself and they teach and inspire me. I am friendly with lots of owners of catering companies around the world, and we all help and mentor each other.

I also gain inspiration and stay abreast of industry trends by reading a lot and travelling overseas as often as possible.

I love what I do for a living, because I make my living from doing what I love. But it's not an easy job.

In fact, it's not a job at all - it's an all-consuming passion, and the more you do it, and the better you do it, the more you will find yourself faced with people wanting to consume your product or service.

Running your own company can consume your every waking moment if you let it, so it is important to ensure you maintain some degree of work/life balance.

I have four sons between the ages of six and 12 and a wonderful husband, so it is very important to me to spend quality time with my family. For my own sanity and well-being, I also make time to exercise, read, garden and paint.

My practical advice is find something you love doing, and do it with all your heart. If you can make your living from it and build your life around it, then you will be blessed with the gift of your own happiness, and the happiness you bring to others.

Share your gift. Don’t keep it to yourself, let it belong to the world. Let it help, in one way or another, to make the world a better place.

 - Fin24

* Karen Short is founder and chairperson of By Word of Mouth. She is the latest guest columnist taking part in Fin24's Women's Month campaign celebrating women in business.

Fin24 welcomes your participation in the campaign. Send your views to editor@fin24.com and you could get published.

Previous women's month columns:

It's all in alignment - Anli Kotzé, general manager at Ladbrokes.co.za

Make it a team effort - Lulu Letlape, executive head of group corporate affairs at Sanlam

Life isn't like the movies - Judith Middleton, founder and CEO of DUO Marketing + Communications

Ramp up your fun factor - Marteen Michau, head of fiduciary and tax at Sanlam Private Investments

Map your delivery plan - Jackie Carroll, managing director for Media Works

Fine balancing act - Managing director of MUA Insurance Acceptances

Small victories are sweet
- CEO of Save the Children South Africa

Head in the clouds - Marketing manager at kulula.com

The sky's the limit - Tsidi Luse, quality control manager at Lafarge's Lichtenburg plant

In the driving seat - Dawn Nathan-Jones, CEO, Europcar

Get your hands dirty - Sandra Burmeister, CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment Group

Manage like a woman - Wahida Parker, director of Equillore

Four tips for working moms - Glynnis Jeffries, head: business development at Futuregrowth

Women a force for change - Amelia Jones, CEO of Community Chest

Don't be an ice queen - Nicole Fannin, financial consultant at deVere Group


* Follow Fin24 on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

workplace  |  women  |  entrepreneurs



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